Sunday, August 18, 2002

Faith and Preservation of the Environment

The global climate is undergoing an unusual change. Those who have been watching the recent weather-related news undoubtedly must think so. Both the Asahi Shimbun and the Sankei Shimbun took up this problem in today's issues. Not only the tremendous flooding in Europe, but in China and Southeast Asia as well, there have been large-scale water-related disasters. On the other hand, warm sunny weather has continued in North America, and there are concerns about an increase in damage done by forest fires. It's only natural to think that, as with the environmental situation in Germany, damage from global warming is becoming increasingly more serious.

I spoke on global environmental issues at the Seicho-No-Ie National Conventions in May, and emphasized the fact that, unless we spread the teaching that all living things on this earth are "one in God" to more people, the situation will only grow to become even more serious, and we will not be able to get to the root of the problem. As one can see, however, the state of the world is such that there is no end to people looking at their peers in "humankind" and the need to destroy those they consider "axis of evil" much less look at "all living things on this earth" as being friends. This holds true not only for the United States. The Arabs and Israelis, those in India and Pakistan whose countries have a long history of conflict, pour their energy and intellect in war and military buildup and turn away from issues regarding the environment. There are other countries, too, where the people cry out that the economic and military power of their neighbors are "threats". There may, indeed, be that type of "threat", but, isn't the fact that the way humankind lives--particularly those of us in developed countries--is creating a "threat" to humankind a much more serious problem?

I received advice from someone recently saying that religion should not get involved with environmental issues, but should instead concern itself with how to explain and teach subjects originally associated with religion, that is "God" and "faith." This person says that people can use their own common sense about things pertaining to the environment, and they aren't something with which religions need bother. I don't understand this kind of thinking. If what something someone strongly believes in is "faith", then what that person believes will definitely be expressed within that person's life. "Believing but not doing anything about it" isn't believing, but only "knowing." It's not that those who believe that "God is love" don't love their children, parents and friends because they feel God does everything, but, according to the will of God, they "practice" giving love, not only to their family and friends, but to strangers as well.

For those of us living in developed countries, I believe that there is a need to recognize the fact that environmental issues have to do with our lifestyles and the wasteful way we use energy, and then look for ways to "practice" changes in our lifestyle to decrease the number of people who are, as a result, victims of this wasting. Those who know that their lifestyle gives way to victims in developing countries and don't do anything about it may "know" God who is love, but they cannot say that they "believe" in Him. That's why, those who believe should pay attention to even the most trivial of things and try to figure out what in their lives they can adjust to decrease the amount of energy wasted. Since people who don't believe in God are trying to do so recently, there is no reason why believers shouldn't.

Based on this, Seicho-No-Ie International Headquarters and its Main Temple in Japan acquired "ISO14001" certification, also called "Environmental ISO", in the summer of last year, the first in Japan's religious corporations to do so. Receiving this certification, however, is just the beginning. There are cases in which certification is revoked if the organization does not meet the very strict international criteria in annual judging and inspection. Since the beginning of this year, Seicho-No-Ie's different Missionary Areas throughout Japan have acquired this certification as well. It's impossible to continue this type of subtle, consistent effort on a whim. It becomes something with permanence only when a "reform of consciousness" occurs at the individual level. That is why a movement to preserve the environment based on faith is being sought now.

Of course, this should happen, not only at the corporate level, but we should try to change our own individual lifestyles as much as we possibly can. It's a bit embarrassing to talk about myself, but it's been four years since I installed a solar power generator on my house. And, in order to save forests from being destroyed to raise farm animals, it's been about 4-5 years since I've stopped eating beef and pork. My wife wrote somewhere about our using a rusty old oven toaster, and it's been about 15-16 years since we bought our rice cooker. Our washing machine, which we've repaired twice, goes back even further. We didn't turn on the air conditioning at home at all this year, and I only used the one in my office once. None of this would be possible without the cooperation and understanding of my wife and children.

I don't pretend to think that global warming will stop with this, but, if this kind of change in thinking occurs with more people, and that is reflected in our daily attitude and consumer actions, then it will definitely lead to a tremendous difference. Without this type of change at the "grassroots level", I don't think there will be a solution to the problems concerning the environment. What do you readers think?

- MT

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